The new solar array built atop the capped landfill off Medway Branch RD. is the latest solar project to go online in Norfolk. Already, the sun’s rays are being harvested into clean energy at MCI Norfolk and Massachusetts Audubon Stony Brook. The town is becoming a full participant in the green energy movement and is one of several Massachusetts municipalities turning capped landfills into energy producing facilities. “This project has turned an old landfill into a producer of clean, domestic electricity,” says Norfolk Selectman Rob Garrity. “We're not using energy derived from foreign natural gas or coal supplies.”
The new solar array went online June 20th and is the result of a partnership between the town and Constellation New England. In this arrangement, the town is the landlord and purchaser of power, while Constellation develops and operates the solar array. Other towns to enter similar arrangements include Canton, Scituate, Easton Duxbury and Holbrook. One of the key factors driving this trend is the positive impact local leaders hope it will have on budgets.
This is true in Norfolk’s case. “The panels will provide the town with a benefit of $230-250,000 per year, at very little upfront cost to the town,” Garrity explains. “We were responsible for clearing and grading some of the land, but we didn't have to front a large amount of money."
The town’s investment was less than $100,000. “We had to invest, $70,000 to clear those trees to prepare the land,” says Town Administrator Jack Hathaway.
The town also had to set aside some additional land to protect the habitats of native Eastern Box Turtles.
The investment has the potential for long term savings. If energy prices go up, the savings could be greater than the projected $230,000 to $250,000. The town has a fixed price for energy purchase from Constellation that goes up slightly over the next 20 years.
The Norfolk solar array project faced typical difficulties but according to Garrity nothing major. “For Norfolk the difficulties were similar to the difficulties any time you do something for the first time,” he explained.
The main issues the town faced dealt with procurement policies, understanding the necessary permits needed, and crafting the request for proposal that would attract the company that would develop, own and operate the solar arrays. One issue Garrity feared never materialized. “It wasn't as hard a sell at Town Meeting as I thought it would be,” he says. “There have been so many very supportive people in town. Folks like Jack [Hathaway], Bob Bullock, Bob MacGhee, the Advisory Board, the other two selectmen, and particularly the Energy Committee which bird-dogged the project throughout the process.”
Now that the project has moved from a concept to reality, town officials are happy with the results. “I am thoroughly pleased with the project,” Garrity says. “On a personal level it's so fulfilling to be able to do something, to see something through to completion, particularly something that will benefit the town.”
The Wrentham Developmental Center is close to finishing a solar array installation. To learn more read The Wrentham Times.
To see the performance of the Norfolk Solary Array go to the online dashboard showing live data on its performance.